Few rifles can match the guaranteed half-MOA accuracy of the Pro Series.
By Jon R. Sundra
I don’t know how many gun-related articles I’ve read over the past five decades that used Col. Townsend Whelen’s “Only-accurate-rifles-are-interesting” quote in the lead sentence, but there’s been a bunch of ’em. Heck, I’ve probably used it a half-dozen times myself. It may be trite, but the reason it’s used so often is because it’s true.
Which, of course, brings up the question: What do we mean by accurate? There is no official benchmark, but it’s safe to say that any sporter-weight hunting rifle that can put three shots into an inch or less at 100 yards with a high degree of consistency is an accurate rifle (it’s also an MOA rifle, though minute of angle is actually 1.04 inches at 100 yards, 2.08 inches at 200, etc.). And one that can punch half-inch groups is well into heavy-barreled varmint rifle territory. A half-MOA hunting rifle is a rare bird indeed, but rarer still is a company that will guarantee it.
It’s easy to understand why manufacturers, custom builders included, want no part of accuracy guarantees. There are so many vagaries involved in rifle performance that are entirely beyond the control of whoever made the gun. Take, for example, a simple thing like the steadiness of the shooting bench. I can’t tell you how many firearms media events I’ve attended where the benches set out for us were rickety enough that if there was a wind blowing, you couldn’t possibly hold MOA, much less shoot it.
Other essentials to tight groups are a scope of high-enough magnification to minimize sighting errors, a properly bedded rifle, the right load, benign wind and mirage conditions, and, of course, the shooter’s ability. Even the quality of the sight reference on the target enters into the equation. An “X” scribbled with a crayon on a cardboard box ain’t gonna’ cut it!
Anyway, to my knowledge, H-S Prec-ision was the first company to guarantee 1/2-MOA accuracy in a sporter-weight hunting rifle using a prescribed handload. The company started making their own Pro-Series 2000 actions 10 years ago. Prior to that time, H-S had been making their own barrels since 1978 and their own composite stocks since 1982, so they already had manufacturing and quality control of two of the three basic components that comprise a bolt-action rifle.
Once they had an action of their own design and manufacture, they had total control over all aspects of rifle production. In fact, H-S makes all their own tooling, gauges and chambering reamers, and have a state-of-the-art ballistic research facility and underground test tunnel as well.
It is this autonomy that sets H-S Precision apart from other semi-custom (or semi-production, take your pick) gun builders. Generally speaking, most such companies will outsource one or two of the three basic components, so essentially they’re assembling the work/product of others to varying degrees. Now don’t get me wrong, most custom and semi-custom rifles have always been made just that way, and superb guns they can be. But there’s just no substitute for making everything yourself, and I guess that’s the main reason why H-S is confident enough to offer their accuracy guarantee.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the Pro-Series 2000 action; it’s a hybrid that combines time-tested design features found primarily on the Remington 700 and, to a lesser extent, the Winchester Model 70. There are also features unique to it.
The tubular receiver is machined from a stainless steel billet, and like the Remington 700, employs a washer-type recoil lug that’s sandwiched between the barrel and receiver ring. The .300-inch-thick lug has a huge surface area over which to spread recoil forces to the stock.
The bolt, machined from a different type of stainless than the receiver to prevent galling, is a twin-lug affair with a recessed bolt face that houses a plunger-type ejector. And like the Remington 700, the rim of the recessed bolt face is uninterrupted by an extractor cut. In other words, the case rim and head are completely encircled. This better seals off the chamber in the event of a pierced primer or case head separation.
The sheer surface area of the two locking lugs is as large as I’ve ever seen on any action. Like the Model 70, the face of the barrel breech is coned rather than flat, which aids cartridge feeding. Naturally, the front surface of the locking lugs slopes back 30 degrees to match the cone angle of the breech. The base of the bolt handle serves as a non-bearing auxiliary or safety lug in that it turns down into a deep slot in the floor of the receiver. All in all, it’s a very strong, safe action. It’s also a very smooth one, as the tolerances between the bolt and its raceway within the receiver are kept to less than .008 inch.
The safety is of the three-position Model 70 type mounted on the bolt shroud, which withdraws the striker from contact with the sear. Rotated back to its middle position, the safety is engaged but the action can be cycled; in its fully rearward position, the safety is still engaged and the action is locked. And like the Model 70, with the safety in the middle position, the bolt can be removed from the receiver and stripped for cleaning without tools; you simply unscrew the bolt shroud /striker assembly from the bolt body.
The fully adjustable trigger on this Pro-Series 2000 action is much like that of the “old” Model 70 Winchester (prior to 2008 production) in that it’s all out there for you to see; nothing is hidden inside a housing. This trigger, however, is much more compact, and its design is patented to boot. The housing is a sturdy chunk of machined steel with a huge inspection hole on either side, showing the finger piece and how its three adjustment screws bear upon it.
The bolt release is also Model 70. An upward extension at the rear of the bolt stop itself juts up behind the left side of the receiver bridge. Pushing down on this extension pivots the front of the lever downward out of the left locking lug raceway, allowing the bolt to
H-S is one of the few barrel makers to employ cut rifling rather than button rifling or hammer forging. Barrels capable of benchrest accuracy can be made using any of these three methods, but the one advantage claimed for cut rifling is that there are no stresses induced in the process. Grooves are cut one at a time with multiple passes of an indexing tool or “hook.” It can take up to an hour to rifle a barrel, as opposed to a couple of minutes with the other two methods.
Theoretically, a barrel that’s free of stress will not “walk” or string shots as the barrel heats up. It may be the old-fashioned way of rifling a barrel, but apparently it’s good enough that
H-S Precision has long been the industry leader in furnishing barrels to all major ammunition producers and NATO countries for quality-control testing. Like the action and bottom metal unit, all barrels are of stainless steel.
As for the stocks furnished on Pro-Series 2000 rifles, they feature the same integral aluminum bedding block chassis the company developed for the Army’s M-24 tactical rifle back in 1984, which to date, the company claims to have built more than 10,000 without a single warranty return. The stocks consist of hand-laid Kevlar and woven fiberglass cloths reinforced with unidirectional carbon fiber.
The aluminum bedding blocks around which the stocks are built are CNC machined on the V-block principle, which self-centers the tubular receiver. One of the primary goals set by the Army for its tactical rifle was that it had to be capable of taking a lot of rough handling and allow repeated disassembly and reassembly without a change in zero. Those goals were met with the bedding block chassis and remain a major advantage offered by all Pro-Series stocks.
One of the features I don’t like about these guns is that H-S offers no options to the detachable magazine. DMs have come a long way, and this one is fairly good, but I still prefer a hinged floorplate or, as a second choice, a blind magazine. I was therefore happy to learn that a blind magazine version should be available by the time you read this, and next year, a hinged floorplate.
The rifle on which I based this test and evaluation was one I purchased specifically for the purpose of using on a Siberian Ibex hunt in Kyrgyzstan last October (see the December 2007 issue of GunHunter). The model I chose was the SPL, which denotes Sporter Lightweight, chambered in 7mm WSM. The SPL is one of four different models of sporter-weight hunting rifles offered by H-S Precision; mine weighed just under 7 pounds, as it came from the box with a 24-inch fluted barrel that measured .680 inch at the muzzle. With a Bushnell 4200 Elite 2.5-10x42 scope in Leupold rings and bases, the field-ready rig weighs 83/4 pounds, which is within a couple of ounces more or less of what most of my hunting rifles weigh.
Like all H-S Precision rifles, mine came with the test target and the reloading data for the handload used to shoot it, but I wanted to use a tougher bullet than the 150-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip specified. My first trip to the shooting range, therefore, was as much for the purpose of acquiring once-fired brass for my handloads as it was to get the gun zeroed-in and to see how it performed with factory ammo.
I had a few boxes of Winchester Supreme 160-grain Fail Safe ammo, so that’s what I grabbed going out the door. I’ve had a lot of experience shooting various factory loadings in several 7mm WSM rifles, so I wasn’t expecting gilt-edge accuracy from a game bullet designed for terminal performance.
Was I surprised! My first three-shot group from the 100-yard line after getting the gun on paper measured .575 inch. Wow, I thought, but fully expecting it would prove to be a fluke. My next group measured an incredible .280 inch, and my next three three-shot groups averaged .650 inch!
If I had a brain, I would have simply packed up and returned home, secure in the knowledge that I had a fantastically accurate, ready-made load to use on my upcoming hunt. But no, I wanted a lighter, flatter-shooting bullet because I was told to expect extreme-range shooting in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.
To make a long story short, I settled on a handload using Reloder 19 and a 140-grain Barnes Triple Shock X-Bullet. On my last trip to the range before leaving on my hunt, I fired three three-shot groups that averaged 1.3 inches at 200 yards. As it turned out, I shot my ibex at a relatively close 185 laser-measured yards. It sure was comforting, however, to know I had all that accuracy should I have needed it.
In addition to the various sporter and varmint versions of the Pro-Series 2000 rifle in both right- and left-hand models, H-S Precision is deeply involved in law enforcement/tactical weaponry. The company’s tactical rifles are used by the FBI, BATF, Israeli Defense Forces and military/tactical teams around the world. Pretty strong testimonials.
H-S Precision rifles are not inexpensive; the standard SPR model starts at $2,680. That’s for an unfluted barrel 20 to 26 inches in length, black Teflon metal finish, and in a choice of stock colors. You can check out all their many offerings by going to their website at www.hsprecision.com.
Reprinted from the October 2008 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.